Behind the Locked Door 

by David Herstle Jones

Buy now:  Behind The Locked Door is available in Mendocino from Gallery Books, Moore Books, and the Mendocino Public Library; in Fort Bragg from The Bookstore and the Fort Bragg Public Library; from my Think in the Morning website or my Mendocino office (above Mendocino Market) and from most online sites (Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble).

Think in the Morning

Pub date December 31, 2019

ISBN 9780578589558

Price $18.95 (USD) Paperback, $9.99 Kindle edition

 

 

FOREWORD CLARION REVIEWS

BY:  Eileen Gonzalez

April 10, 2020

Blurring the line between fantasy and reality, Behind the Locked Dooris a novel about living life to the fullest, no matter how much time you have left.

The fight over a supposed cancer cure brings both insight and sorrow in David Herstle Jones’s novel Behind the Locked Door.

After a devastating cancer diagnosis, Eric, an up-and-coming lawyer, travels to Mexico to try an illegal and probably ineffective miracle cure. But the clinic treating Eric hides dangers of its own: it is a money laundering front for ruthless drug dealers, and the doctors have almost run out of their wonder treatment, forcing them to use a less effective substitute. As the battle over the cure heats up, Eric discovers a new outlook on life—and new reasons for living.

The novel uses elements of fantasy to grapple with its difficult subjects, including the brutality of terminal illness and of America’s imperfect healthcare system, as well as the benefits and limits of faith—religious and otherwise—in the healing process. Eric struggles with all of this, feeling like a plaything for unfeeling doctors and the universe as a whole.

The plot moves slowly, meandering through raw scenes of fear and mourning. These are interspersed with fantastical visions brought on by Eric’s illness. The narration is sometimes distant, relating dramatic events with little emotion, but it also sometimes seethes with desperation. Eric vacillates between confidence and anger throughout the story. His fragile happiness and unconquerable doubts are conveyed through the straightforward yet hypnotic prose and stark similes. The dialogue flows well but sometimes slips into redundant speeches or contradictory statements.

Even characters who don’t seem to be connected share unexpected bonds, leading to interesting revelations. There are several secondary characters whose subplots are underdeveloped or unresolved. Much characterization is relayed through exposition.

Rich details highlight the contrasts of Eric’s time in 1970s Mexico. The hut of the healer Itandehui is dark and atmospheric—a fitting location for life-altering revelations. The city of Tijuana is rejuvenating but often dangerous, with beachside restaurants and intense sporting events adding variety to Eric’s draining routine of shots, supplements, and waiting.

Several complementary themes may be drawn from the story. The power of nature and the dangers of deviating too far from it are writ large throughout. Multiple characters, including Eric, experience different fates depending on whether they take this lesson to heart. The ending is frequently hinted at; it furthers the notion that reality is constructed by individuals, rather than being an immutable thing. Here: everyone dies, but their stories don’t have to.

Blurring the line between fantasy and reality, Behind the Locked Dooris a novel about living life to the fullest, no matter how much time you have left.

 

BLUEINK REVIEW

March 2020

This imaginative and mystical book traverses the real and dream worlds of a young man with incurable cancer who hopes an unproven drug and a shamanic healer from Mexico can restore his life.

In May, 1972, attorney Eric Martin isn’t ready to die at 33 years old. He wants to take a chance on the U.S. banned “miracle” drug Laetrile in Mexico rather than resort to cancer treatments with horrendous side effects at Stanford Medical Center.

Through the author’s inventive approach to magical realism, Eric journeys to a clinic outside of Tijuana where he encounters a Catholic priest named Father Jordan. Jordan connects Eric with an elderly curandera(female healer) in a small village high atop a mountain who administers healing techniques and a Laetrile serum made from ground apricot pits.

Struggling between illusion and reality, Eric is bombarded by hallucinations of good and evil spirits. Through shifting narrators, readers are shown a world filled with magical spirits, greedy charlatans, drug dealers, a corrupt politician, and a lone scientist working to do good.

Jones’s novel is solid in structure and delivers intriguing, believable characters. His prose offers solid descriptive elements and imagery, often poetically rendered. For example, “Eric’s tone sounded thin and brittle like the ice on a puddle in winter.” On occasion, however, an analogy is more awkward than evocative: “Inside Itandehui’s hut events progressed silently and slowly like vegetables growing.”

Jones’s novel pays homage to his brother, Errol Miller, who died of cancer in May 1972 at age 33 and had planned to go to Mexico for Laetrile treatment. Using this springboard, Jones has developed a strong story that explores the complexities of life and death, pondering whether, as a long line of esteemed writers have posited, life is but a dream.

Those who appreciate existential explorations or are confronting their own life trials will find this a thought-provoking read.

 

FEATHERED QUILL BOOK REVIEW

BY:  Amy Lignor

March 24, 2020

This is one of those rare books that covers many genres and interests. A literary drama that involves a young lawyer diagnosed with terminal cancer; a book that delves into the unconventional medical approaches to healing; and, also a tale that is filled with intrigue, suspense, politics, as well as “hard- boiled” criminal characters and activities.

To begin, readers are taken back to the 1970s to meet up with Eric Martin, the young man who has been afflicted with this horrendous disease. It does not take long for him to figure out that the hospitals and more “accepted” avenues of fighting the disease, such as chemotherapy, are simply not enough. Not only are they ineffective in his situation, but those providing the care also don’t seem to have the passion or will to fight something that has no prescribed cure.

But Eric still has the fight within and his path to treatment is altered when he opens the door to a clinic in Mexico that offers Laetrile (i.e., a compound used as a treatment for cancer, there’s an argument about its validity and the fact that, because it makes hydrogen cyanide which changes into cyanide when taken into the body, can be deadly). No choice is showing any support or promise, so he opts for this one. At the clinic in Mexico, he meets a Catholic

priest who has his own “other paths” to healing as well. This man of the cloth is a believer in the mysterious, for lack of a better term, and opens Eric to the world of shamanic healing which involves the shaman working with ‘helper spirits’ in order to heal a soul.

While on this journey, not only does Eric find a way to love and embrace life, the reader does as well. Many question, while others believe, that dreams and reality can be a “team” in some ways and that the extraordinary things no one can understand should be explored and learned in order to give a life a greater sense of fulfillment.

This is not entirely a work of fiction. The book is made all the more substantial when knowing that the author is recounting the disease that afflicted his own brother, but goes one step further. Almost as an homage, the author shows both the good and the bad that life has to offer each one of us. He also does a heart-wrenching job of proving that living defined as ‘breathing in and out each day’ is not fine; if you’re just breathing and not living each day to its absolute fullest, then…basically, you become a robot amongst many.

The characters invited into this story are fun, interesting, and memorable. Reality also comes in the form of a crime drama with political overtones that keep thriller readers involved—with everyone from gangsters to drug dealers, corrupt politicians to a man of science—while enchanted at the same time. You will find yourself rooting for Eric, standing behind him, and never getting overrun or depressed. Why? Because even at the worst of times, the lead has a determination and will that is powerful, to say the least. And even more intrigue comes in the final ‘Act’ of this outstanding tale because it’s an ending you did not see coming and is something you will not expect!

Quill says: Not only is this a good read, but it’s one all of us should take the time to read, understand, and realize how to live life like there’s no tomorrow.

 

THE PRAIRIES BOOK REVIEW

February 4, 2020

A deeply satisfying tale…

Dedicated to his older brother, who died of a fast-moving cancer as a young man, David’s magical and sweeping tale focuses on a young attorney’s remarkable journey of fulfillment as he gains insights into the true way of living and places his faith in the immortality of true love. It’s 1970. Eric Martin, a young attorney, opts to get a holistic treatment combined with Laetrile in Mexico after being diagnosed with terminal cancer instead of staying in America where the drug is illegal. Getting the highly aggressive, ineffective chemotherapy, which at most can give him a couple more years to live, is not in Eric’s immediate plans. In Mexico, he finds fulfillment and learns to embrace life with an open heart. David’s superb novel is crowded with the strange and fantastical, the ordinary and extraordinary and explores the thin line that separates dreams from reality. The narrative goes far beyond the recounting of Eric’s remarkable journey of finding fulfillment: in telling the story of Eric, David not only captures the bigger meaning of life but also its succinct wisdom: there’s a difference between being alive and living life to its fullest. He deftly blends magical realism with elements of a crime drama and political intrigue. The book’s pacing is relatively smooth despite its length, and David does justice to his vast array of characters, bringing the most minor characters vividly to life: Eric’s underlying vulnerability is on full display but he never comes out as melancholic or hopeless. David not only captures Eric’s fortitude and determination but also the astounding way he stays grounded in reality despite the circumstances. A gallery of secondary characters, pivotal to the plot, is infused into the narrative simultaneously: Itandehui, Frieze, Nelson, Penalt, Ana Luisa, Father Jordan are among many others who will stay at readers’ minds long after they finish the book. The spirit world adds to the intrigue of the story, and despite its heavy presence in the narrative, the novel comes out as more of a tale of literary fiction than a hard-boiled magical realism story. The denouement is shocking — something that readers wouldn’t see coming and wish for it to be different, but it doesn’t take away the profound effect the novel makes as a tightly focused yet equally satisfying tale of love and intrigue. Lovers of literary fiction and magical realism will be equally rewarded.